(House of Representatives - January 04, 2019)

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[Pages H220-H224]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to section 3 of House Resolution 5, 
proceedings will now resume on the resolution (H. Res. 6) adopting the 
Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Sixteenth 
Congress, and for other purposes.
  The Clerk read the title of the resolution.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. When proceedings were postponed on Thursday, 
January 3, 2019, the portion of the divided question comprising title I 
had been disposed of.
  Pursuant to section 2 of House Resolution 5, the portion of the 
divided question comprising title II is now debatable for 1 hour.
  The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and the gentleman from 
Oklahoma (Mr. Cole) each will control 30 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 6, Title II--Select 
Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
  Title II establishes a bipartisan Select Committee on the 
Modernization of Congress to investigate, study, make findings, hold 
public hearings, and develop recommendations to modernize and improve 
the way Congress operates.
  This institution has a responsibility to the people--to our 
constituents--and to this country to build a Congress that works for 
everyone, not just those at the top. This is not something that will 
happen on its own. It is going to take hard work, but it is worthwhile 
  This is not the first time Congress, as an institution, has wrestled 
with how to be more effective and efficient. Three times in the 20th 
century--in 1945, in 1965, and again in 1992 when Ms. Lofgren and I 
came to Congress--we established joint committees to examine various 
aspects of the legislative process in an effort to improve efficiency 
and promote transparency.
  Madam Speaker, today we are at a similar crossroads. Last Congress, 
we witnessed the Republicans lead the most closed Congress in the 
history of our country. Republicans blocked everything from immigration 
reform and infrastructure to gun safety and lowering prescription drug 
  Last November, many of the American people demanded a new direction. 
Part of that new direction includes making the House of Representatives 
an institution that debates big ideas.

[[Page H221]]

  We are at a moment where the challenges we face as a country are so 
great--everything from the opioid epidemic that is devastating 
communities across the country to the immense economic and human cost 
the world will incur as a result of climate change--that we must come 
together as a body in a deliberate and transparent way.

                              {time}  0915

  The select committee will provide a venue for Members to consult 
outside experts, academics, and this institution's own Members in an 
effort to analyze, debate, and adopt those ideas that will help us 
improve how we do the people's business.
  This select committee, along with the bipartisan rules package that 
passed on the House floor yesterday, is proof that we stand ready, 
willing, and able to protect not only this institution's prerogative 
but the interests of the American people.
  With public trust in Congress at historic lows, House Democrats are 
taking transformational steps that will modernize Congress, restore 
regular order, and bring integrity back to this institution. This 
comprehensive and deliberate approach will undoubtedly improve the 
overall function of this great institution that we all have the 
privilege and honor to serve in.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Madam Speaker, I rise as the designee of the Republican leader, and I 
thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), my good friend, for 
yielding me 30 minutes.
  For the third time in 2 days, Madam Speaker, my good friends from the 
Democratic side of the aisle and I are here to debate part of the 
Democratic rules package for the House of Representatives. Unlike the 
first two times, I find myself in agreement with what the Democrats are 
proposing today.
  We are here today on title II of the rules package, which establishes 
a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. While I think 
improvements can be made to what my friends are proposing, I am pleased 
to say I think that this proposal is an excellent idea.
  I know my good friend also mentioned the last Congress, and I want to 
take just a second to defend that Congress. Frankly, it was the last 
Congress that gave us the first tax modernization overhaul and tax 
reduction in 31 years. It was the last Congress that began the opioid 
initiative that we worked on in a very bipartisan way. It was the last 
Congress that did more deregulation than any Congress in American 
history. It was the last Congress, working with my friends on the other 
side, that did historic work in human trafficking. It was the last 
Congress that also did historic work, again, in a very bipartisan way, 
with my friends on the veterans' issues. Finally, it was the last 
Congress that began rebuilding the American military after 8 years of 
neglect. We will see if this Congress has a record that matches that in 
the next 2 years.
  Having said that, as my friend laid out, the proposed select 
committee would be charged with investigating, studying, and making 
recommendations for modernizing Congress, including improvements to 
rules; to procedures, including the schedule and the calendar; to staff 
recruitment, diversity, and retention; and to technology.
  I am especially pleased that this select committee will be equally 
divided between Democrats and Republicans and that the makeup of the 
committee will include two members of each part from the Rules 
Committee, the House Administration Committee, and two freshmen.
  Most importantly, the select committee is required to produce a 
report with their recommendations by a two-thirds supermajority by the 
end of Congress. Those are all excellent proposals by my friends, and I 
wholeheartedly endorse them.
  Madam Speaker, there is a lot to like in this proposal. I think we 
can all agree, no matter which party you belong to, that Congress needs 
to be modernized and its processes improved. I am especially happy that 
my friends have done so in a way that is bipartisan and, hopefully, 
will be above politics.
  The proposal isn't quite perfect, of course. Personally, I would have 
preferred to have seen the House take up this responsibility in 
coordination with our colleagues in the Senate. I am sure the bulk of 
my conference and probably the bulk of my friend's conference would 
probably tell you that, if any body in Congress needs improvement, it 
is undoubtedly the one on the other side of the Capitol rotunda. On 
that, we can have a bipartisan agreement within this Chamber.
  Of course, Congress works best when the House and the Senate work 
together, and that includes the need to improve processes and modernize 
Congress as an institution, as a whole. The majority would have done 
better to have found a way to work with the Senate on developing a 
joint committee made up of Members from both houses of Congress that 
would be charged with making improvements to the House, the Senate, and 
to Congress, as a whole.
  That aside, this is certainly a very good and serious proposal, and I 
look forward, with a great deal of optimism, as the select committee 
does its work this Congress.
  Madam Speaker, I urge support of the measure, and I reserve the 
balance of my time.
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern), chairman of the Rules 
Committee and my good friend.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. 
Hastings), for yielding to me and for his leadership on the Rules 
Committee. I am looking forward to working with him as a member of the 
majority in this Congress.
  Madam Speaker, we started an important conversation about how to 
improve this House as the rules package was developed. Members on both 
sides of the aisle brought forward ideas. Many of them were included in 
the final package. But these rules shouldn't be the end of the 
dialogue. They should be only a start.
  I know that there are many Members who will have even more good ideas 
in the coming weeks and months, and this Select Committee on the 
Modernization of Congress is a unique opportunity to continue the 
  It is a truly bipartisan way to consider ideas on how to promote a 
more modern and efficient Congress and procedures to develop the next 
generation of leaders, increase staff diversity, and improve technology 
and innovation. It is also a way for this Congress to hold ourselves 
accountable, to ensure our work to reform this House is delivering on 
behalf of the American people.

  I especially thank Representatives Kilmer, Lipinski, and Sarbanes, as 
well as the New Democrat Coalition, for this idea. It is a step that 
this House can take, and it is a step that this House, quite frankly, 
should take.
  Madam Speaker, finally, I just want to say, as the gentleman from 
Oklahoma pointed out, this select committee is truly bipartisan, and 
the ideas that come out of this select committee will be truly 
  We can improve the way this House is run. We can improve the way we 
do things here. I think the American people are hoping we will move in 
that direction, and I think we have an opportunity to do that.
  I say to the gentleman from Oklahoma, I really appreciate his tone 
and his support for this initiative. We all talk about new beginnings 
and about ways to make things better, and I think we are off to a good 
start. For that, I thank the gentleman from Florida.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Madam Speaker, I echo my friend's comments, to some degree.
  First, I thank him personally, and I thank his fellow members on the 
Democratic Rules Committee, for presenting this proposal. It is a 
genuinely excellent and bipartisan effort, and it suggests that the 
language we heard about trying to change the way in which we operate 
was very sincere and well motivated. It is much appreciated on our side 
of the aisle.
  While we certainly had our differences yesterday, I appreciate the 
way, frankly, that was handled by both sides. I am pleased that we are 
ending this on a point of agreement and a bipartisan commitment to 
actually improve the nature of our institution.

[[Page H222]]

  Again, I expect this committee to actually produce really substantive 
proposals. I don't know yet, obviously, who the members on either side 
will be, but I know the leadership on both sides takes this very 
seriously. I think there is a genuine commitment to try to open up the 
process a little bit to make it, if you will, more Member-friendly, 
whether you are Members in the majority or the minority, and that is to 
be commended on the part of my friend.
  Again, this is a good start, as my friend Mr. McGovern said, and I 
look forward to playing my part in participating as we make progress in 
this direction.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Washington (Mr. Kilmer), my friend, a member of the 
Appropriations Committee.
  Mr. KILMER. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in support of title II of this 
resolution to establish a new Select Committee on the Modernization of 
Congress, and I start by thanking Chairman McGovern and the Speaker for 
their collaboration over the past several months as they formed this 
  Let me say something that the American people know to be true, and 
that is that this House is a fixer-upper. Every time the American 
people feel like they don't have a say and nothing gets done, or every 
time a bill is written behind closed doors and passed without debate, 
the American people lose their faith in the ideal that formed this 
body, the idea that they have the ability to shape the outcome of what 
happens here.
  It is time to rebuild this institution so it lives up to the motto 
that serves as this Nation's motto that hangs in this room: E pluribus 
unum, out of many, one.
  Now, every 20 years or so, there has been an effort to reform and 
modernize this House. There has been an acknowledgment that like any 
other functional organization, it is worth diagnosing what is working 
and what isn't, and determining how to have it perform better.
  This committee that is established with today's vote will empower 
Members to help Congress to work better and to be more responsive to 
the American people, a Congress that will lead to the advancement of 
shared goals between the parties, and a reform system that allows the 
435 people lucky enough to work here to have meaningful outcomes to 
show for their work, to produce solutions.
  Look, we are on the cusp of a new era. We need to rise to the 
challenge by modernizing this legislative body so that we can fulfill 
the priorities of the Nation that elected each one of us to represent 
them. I truly believe that this select committee will help us chart a 
better course, one where consensus is not only sought but actually 
achieved, where we can finally make progress on our Nation's greatest 
challenges by developing proposals with broad bipartisan support and 
allowing them to move through regular order, looking at key issues like 
the use of technology, looking at how to cultivate leadership, and 
looking at operational changes to this body.
  I believe that modernizing this institution is the key to settling 
our diverse country's most pressing challenges and restoring the 
public's faith in Congress.
  Again, I commend Chairman McGovern and the Speaker for leading the 
way forward by establishing this committee. I also take a moment to 
thank some of the folks behind the scenes who have worked really hard 
to bring this plan to fruition, people like Don Sisson and the Rules 
Committee Democratic staff, and Jamie Fleet and the House 
Administration Committee Democratic staff, who spent countless hours 
working to bring us to today.
  Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution so 
that this committee and Congress can finally get to work.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I have an additional speaker on the way, I 
hope, but, right now, I don't have anything additional to add 
  Madam Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Sarbanes), my good friend and a member of 
the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Oversight and 

  Mr. SARBANES. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Madam Speaker, I rise up in support of the rules package being put 
forward by the Democratic majority. In particular, I applaud the 
decision to establish a Select Committee on the Modernization of 
Congress, and I thank Chairman McGovern, Speaker Pelosi, and all those 
who made this a priority.
  We know that the best motives of Members on both sides of the aisle 
are too often frustrated by dysfunction in the legislative process, 
which then makes it difficult for us to deliver on the promises that we 
give to our constituents and to the Nation. Diminishing congressional 
resources and, at times, overly centralized decisionmaking have 
empowered outside interests in the legislative process, and those are 
interests who don't always have the public interest in mind.
  Of course, we know that modern-day campaigning demands are running 
Members ragged. We are increasingly unable to study the material and 
build the relationships necessary for a healthy legislative 
  We have a responsibility to the people to build a Congress that 
serves the people well. This is not something that is going to be easy, 
and it is not something that is going to happen until we make it 
happen. It will take work, but it is work that needs to be done.
  The challenges we face as an institution are not entirely new, as my 
colleague, Congressman Kilmer, just said. For much of modern 
congressional history, Congress has continuously wrestled with how to 
be more effective as the first branch of government.
  In the past, when the challenges grew, we have come together as a 
body to explore reforms to our rules and to institutional design, 
congressional capacity, and the matter of resources.

                              {time}  0930

  In 1945, in 1965, and again in 1992, Congress convened Joint 
Committees to study the functioning of Congress and to propose 
comprehensive, expert-guided reforms.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I yield the gentleman an additional 30 
  Mr. SARBANES. Such a moment is before us again. It will be a 
challenge. After all, Congress is complicated and messy by design. 
Modernizing its operation is no simple task, but that is exactly the 
role that the proposed Select Committee can play. It can create a space 
for Members of Congress from across the ideological spectrum, 
representing different parts of the country, different world views and 
different backgrounds, to come together to work through the challenges 
and think through the remedies. It will be a place for experts, 
historians, and academics to present their views and help us wrestle 
with how to self-improve; and it will signal to the American people 
that we are earnest in our efforts to make Congress work better.
  I strongly support the rules package before us, and I look forward to 
the work of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my 
  Mr. HASTINGS. Madam Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote on the resolution, 
and I yield the control of the remainder of my time to the gentlewoman 
from California (Ms. Lofgren), the distinguished chairwoman of the 
Committee on House Administration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman from California will control 
the remaining time.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of the creation of the Select 
Committee on the Modernization of Congress, and I encourage all of the 
House to do the same.
  There is precedent for Select Committees like this one. During 1973, 
in the 93rd Congress, the House created the Select Committee on 
Committees. And although the Select Committee's mission was to study 
the structure and operation of House committees, it ultimately made 
several recommendations

[[Page H223]]

to improve House-wide administrative and technology functions.
  Among the improvements and modernization steps, the Select Committee 
suggested that the House form a Commission on Information and 
Facilities, tasked with responding to the growing number of issues 
Congress faced, but with limited access to information and analysis.
  The Commission also tackled the problem of growing staff needed to 
support an increased workload, but with limited physical space to 
accommodate them. The result was an installation of a system of 30 
computer terminals for Members of Congress and committees of 
legislative research.
  Now, this seems trivial now, especially when information is in our 
pockets, in our iPhones, but at the time it was revolutionary for the 
Congress to be able to get this information on its computers. This is 
just one example of how a Select Committee made Congress work better.
  Following the Select Committee came the election of the Class of 
1974. Fueled by the Watergate scandal, the new Members did much to 
change the Congress. They decentralized power. They invigorated our 
oversight responsibilities. They began a conversation that would change 
how we do business forever.
  For example, televising the floor proceedings; the 1976 Government in 
the Sunshine Act. The process they started opened up our democracy to 
the American people and created a lasting record for history.
  This Select Committee has a broad mandate to study how our Congress 
has changed and is changing. That begins with our changing workforce. 
We need to invest in our workforce, and that is why the proposal we 
passed in the rules package yesterday to create the Office of Diversity 
and Inclusion was so important. This Select Committee will be tasked 
with studying how we can better recruit, retain, and compensate our 
  We also must be responsible stewards of public money, and this Select 
Committee will help us minimize waste and maximize value in how we 
operate the House.
  Now, as has been mentioned, one of the virtues of the Select 
Committee is its composition. It will be composed of members of the 
House Administration Committee who have firsthand experience with the 
details of House administration. There will be members of the Rules 
Committee, experts in process and procedures who know what works and 
what doesn't when it comes to an efficient legislative process, and the 
Select Committee will feature Members in their first term who bring a 
new perspective and great energy to the House.
  Shortly after her election, my home State colleague from California, 
Representative Katie Porter said: ``Congress wasn't built for Members 
like me.'' And unfortunately, I think Katie is right. But we can change 
that, and we will change that. We can give the people's House back to 
the people.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, my additional speaker has not yet arrived, 
so I am prepared to close whenever my good friend is.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Well, I do have an additional speaker. I yield 5 minutes 
to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Lipinski).
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. LIPINSKI. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of title II of 
H. Res. 6, which creates a Select Committee on the Modernization of 
  Before I was elected to Congress, I was a political science 
professor. I studied and taught American Government, and my specialty 
was Congress. Whenever I was teaching a class on Congress, I would 
start by showing the old Schoolhouse Rock video ``I'm Just a Bill.'' In 
this video, Bill taught how a bill becomes a law. It was a great way of 
introducing, not just kids watching Saturday morning cartoons, but also 
teaching college students how a bill goes through the process in 
Congress to become a law. This was a 3-minute video from 40 years ago.

  Unfortunately, if the song was updated today, it would need to be 
much longer than 3 minutes, with the addition of many more verses that 
explained how difficult it is for a bill to become a law.
  Over the years, Congress has become increasingly dysfunctional. When 
I taught American Government, I would always point out that the 
Constitution established Congress in Article I, before the executive 
and judicial branches, because the drafters understood the critical 
importance of Congress leading in our representative democracy.
  Congressional dysfunction increasingly turns more power, however, 
over to the President and to the courts, which takes power away from 
the American people. So Congress needs reform so it can function as it 
was intended and return this power to the American people.
  Since 2016, I have introduced legislation with my friend and 
colleague, Mr. LaHood, to establish a Joint Committee on the 
Organization of Congress so we could have a mechanism to study and 
enact reform proposals to improve the operations of the House and 
Senate. I advocated for this committee because we need a forum for the 
holistic examination of the rules and procedures essential to effective 
  We need to hold up a magnifying glass to Congress and to push for 
comprehensive reforms to make the institution more efficient, 
effective, and accountable to all Americans. We need to find new ways 
to empower all Members to participate in the legislative process, 
debate ideas, advance their ideas, and get laws enacted.
  As Ms. Lofgren talked about, through the history of Congress, we have 
had these committees that have brought important changes to the way 
that this body operates. With the start of this new 116th Congress, I 
am happy to see that this call for reform has been heeded with the 
inclusion in the resolution creating a Select Committee on the 
Modernization of Congress.
  While the Select Committee does not contain all the elements of the 
legislation we had introduced, notably, it doesn't include Senate 
reform; this is an important step forward that we can achieve today, 
immediately, through House rules. The Select Committee will be able to 
make recommendations on a wide range of issues affecting work in 
Congress, including procedural reform, leadership development, staff 
recruitment and retention, technology, innovation, and administration. 
And the committee gives both parties an equal say in the process of 
developing the package of reforms.
  I am grateful to my party's leadership, especially Speaker Pelosi and 
incoming Rules Committee Chairman McGovern, for making this a part of 
the House rules package for the 116th Congress.
  Madam Speaker, I look forward to continuing to work to restore public 
trust in this institution by making Congress more transparent and 
effective. And by doing this, we will return power to the American 
people, and we can have lawmaking just as explained by Bill in his 
Schoolhouse Rock video, with power going to the people through their 
representatives in the House.
  I ask my colleagues to support this resolution.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I again want to advise my friend I am 
prepared to close whenever she is.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I am prepared to close.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
  In closing, while I normally would stand here and be in opposition to 
what my good friends, Mr. Hastings, Mr. McGovern and Ms. Lofgren would 
be proposing, in this case I fully support the measure that they are 
bringing before us.
  The proposed Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is a 
serious, well-intentioned proposal to create a bipartisan committee to 
produce a bipartisan product aimed at improving the way Congress 
functions now and into the future. And while this idea could have been 
improved if it incorporated the Senate and insured that both houses 
were working together on improving the overall institution, it is 
still, nonetheless, a very worthy endeavor.
  I, for one, thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and I 
think that this is an issue that they could and should support in a 
bipartisan fashion. Frankly, I want to thank my friends; having been on 
the losing side of every vote yesterday, it will be nice to be on the 
winning side today.

[[Page H224]]

  So, Madam Speaker, I want to urge a ``yes'' vote on the underlying 
measure, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Congress is a creature of precedent, but we must never be captive to 
the old ways. The House, the people's body, must continually update and 
renew itself to meet the challenges facing the Nation and to respond to 
the needs of a new generation of representatives. This Select Committee 
on the Modernization of Congress is a way this Congress can identify 
and address the challenges of tomorrow, and will assist us in boldly 
meeting these challenges.
  The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is a way to 
deal with problems facing this body right now, today. The Select 
Committee is a way to make sure that my colleague, Katie Porter, works 
in a Congress built for her and all our new Members.
  It is long past time to chart a path forward and to address the 
problems we must face. I look forward to working with all the members 
of the Select Committee and congressional stakeholders in transforming 
the House for the better on a bipartisan basis.
  Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 5, the previous 
question is ordered on the portion of the divided question comprising 
title II.
  The question is on that portion of the divided question.
  The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that 
the ayes appeared to have it.
  Mr. COLE. Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this question will be postponed.